As often happens in films (and it applies to Romanian ones too), actors get all the praise for the roles they play. Few people know that the hard work of the stuntmen is perhaps just as important, and without it, the films would not look so spectacular.
Such is the case of stuntman Vasile Popa, aka Țeavă, who for years was part of the core team of people led by the prolific Romanian director Sergiu Nicolaescu.
Țeavă, stuntman in movies, but also in real life
Vasile Popa (known in the artistic world as Țeavă) was born on March 23, 1947, in the capital city, and was a sportsman, being a boxing champion.
“At first, I took up rugby, but I only lasted a week. That was after I got hit by one at a training session and fought back. I punched him in the beard and knocked him out”, Vasile Popa once told Libertatea.
At the end of the 1960s, Țeavă was recruited into the stunt troupe set up by Sergiu Nicolaescu, collaborating, in parallel, throughout his career, with other Romanian directors of calibre, including Geo Saizescu, Doru Năstase, Mircea Veroiu, Savel Stiopu, Geo Saizescu, Nicolae Mărgineanu, Mircea Daneliuc, Dan Pița and Elisabeta Bostan.
“That was my destiny, to be a negative hero. I couldn’t play Prince Charming, my face wouldn’t help me. That’s why I played almost only negative roles!”, said also Țeavă.
Among the most important films in which he appeared we can mention: Mihai Viteazul, Osânda, Balanța, Nemuritorii, Un comisar acuză, Dreptatea, Witness disappeared, Racolarea and Trandafirul giallo.
Moreover, he played alongside famous names of Romanian cinema such as : Amza Pellea, Gheorghe Dinică, Horațiu Mălăele, Florin Piersic, Jean Constantin, Ion Besoiu, Dem Rădulescu, Puiu Călinescu, Vladimir Găitan – and many others.
Perhaps just as importantly, on March 4, 1977, Țeavă chose to lend a helping hand, along with other stuntmen, to save those trapped under the rubble of the blocks following the terrible earthquake that took place that day.
“Poor Tudorica, he perished a hero. He was asked by an old man to help him bring him a box of valuables that he had put on the window ledge of his garret on the seventh floor. Tudor climbed up there, passed through two rooms and reached the chandelier. You could see everything, because the facade of the building had fallen in. He picked up the box, but on the way back, after stepping a foot over the beam, he slipped and fell. He perished on the spot!”, said Țeavă of the death of his fellow stuntman.
Stuntman Vasile Popa, about Sergiu Nicolaescu: “…he was satanic”
The stuntman could have talked about his adventures in the movies for days, since this is a life that is far from being monotonous.
“He had to crash head-on into two cars on a ramp. Before the filming, it was raining. My car, being old and heavy, went on harder, the tyre also skidded and I was late getting to the crash site. The car coming from the front cut our car off at the steering wheel. I crouched under the chassis and my colleague was hit on the head. It was Sergiu Nicolaescu’s fault, because he gave the start, even though I told him to let me go. When Sergiu came to the hospital to see us, I swore at him! But he liked the scene so much that he appeared in the film!”, Vasile Popa told us about the event that almost killed him.
The sportsman also hinted that that was not the only occasion when Sergiu Nicolaescu gave him a hard time. “For almost two years I filmed for Mihai Viteazul. The slime, the filth… Sergiu was satanic. He’d throw in these explosions with a trotil so you didn’t even have to pretend, he’d blow you straight away. Szoby Cseh did the fighting, but we did the heavy stunts together. He was afraid to do them with another. We would fall off the horses into the armour, we had 20-30 falls a day on our schedule. And the armour was made of tin, old man. Not like the American rubber ones. It was just a few of us stuntmen doing all this. And we were holding everybody back. A lot of the guys Sergiu took to the “Dacii” were good looking, former rugby players, but that’s it,” Țeavă also recalled.
Vasile Popa died on March 7, 2021, in Bucharest, leaving behind a life like a movie.